Top 10s – The 1970s

We have finally reached the end of the seventies! And so, to celebrate, here are the ten records that I – in my recaps – named as the very best of the decade. Note that this is not me retrospectively ranking my faves. I am beholden to decisions made several months, if not a year ago, for better or worse, and it has left us with an interesting rundown….

I spent the 1960s respectfully choosing the classics: The Beatles, The Stones, The Beach Boys, ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ and ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’. You can check out my sixties Top 10 here (and while you’re at it why not have a glance at my ’50s Top 10 too.) For the seventies, though, it seems I went a little rogue… Those of you expecting to find ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘I’m Not In Love’, or ‘Wuthering Heights’ will have to look elsewhere…

I am limiting myself to one song per artist, regardless of how I ranked them at the time. Interestingly the only act that would have had two songs qualify was… Wizzard! As it is they are left with just one. And I was surprised that one of my favourite bands of the decade, Slade, came nowhere near to placing any songs in this list. Anyway, here we go:

‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, by Simon & Garfunkel – #1 for 3 weeks in March/April 1970

This first song was runner-up in my late-sixties/early-seventies recap. It is a classic, a sweeping hymn, a modern standard. Every time I think I’m bored of it, that it is a little too proper to be a pop song – it is one of the few songs recorded post-1955 that my gran liked, for example – then I listen to it… The Oh, If you need a friend… line gives me shivers, every time. But I was feeling rebellious, and I awarded first place to…

‘Baby Jump’, by Mungo Jerry – #1 for 2 weeks in February/March 1971

One of the grimiest, seediest, downright strangest number ones of the decade, if not of all time. The complete opposite to Mungo Jerry’s huge feel-good hit from the year before. In my original post, I described ‘In the Summertime’ as the soundtrack to a sunny afternoon’s BBQ, while ‘Baby Jump’ was the soundtrack as the party still raged on past 4am. Bodies strewn across the lawn, couples humping in the bushes, someone throwing up under a tree… That kind of thing.

‘Metal Guru’, by T. Rex – #1 for 4 weeks in May/June 1972

‘Best song’ in my 2nd seventies recap. T. Rex’s final UK #1 is everything that made them great condensed and distilled into a perfect pop song: power chords, beefy drums, nonsensical lyrics… From the opening woah-oh-oh-oh it is an extended, non-stop chorus of a tune, and a true classic.

See My Baby Jive’, by Wizzard – #1 for 4 weeks in May/June 1973

The height of ridiculous, over-indulgent, glam… And all the better for it. It is a truth universally acknowledged that any song beginning with anti-aircraft guns will be great. Roy Wood threw the kitchen sink at this, Wizzard’s first of two #1s, and everything stuck. I named it runner-up to ‘Metal Guru’, and then named the follow-up, the equally OTT and equally wonderful ‘Angel Fingers’ as runner-up to the song below…

‘Tiger Feet’, by Mud – #1 for 4 weeks in January/February 1974

Winner in my 3rd seventies recap, you could argue that tracks like this marked the beginning of the end for glam rock. From 1974 onwards the genre was swamped with rock ‘n’ roll tribute acts: Alvin Stardust, The Rubettes, Showaddywaddy, whose hits were catchy but, let’s be honest, dumb. Except, sometimes dumb and catchy is what you need, and when moments like that come along then you can do no better than turn to ‘Tiger Feet.’ Relish the video above… The riff, the repetitive chorus, a man in a dress, backing dancers that look like they’ve just come from the away end at Highbury… Fun fact: There has never been a ‘Best Of the 70s’ compilation that didn’t include ‘Tiger Feet.’

‘Can’t Give You Anything (But My Love)’, by The Stylistics – #1 for 3 weeks in August 1975

Here’s the outlier… I was genuinely surprised to find that this one qualified. I named it as runner-up in my 4th recap apparently, ahead of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, and ‘I’m Not in Love’, which were punished for their ubiquity. But this is a great tune, and it feels right that a slice of soul should feature in this Top 10, as it was one of the sounds of the mid-seventies.

‘Space Oddity’, by David Bowie – #1 for 2 weeks in November 1975

One of the seventies’ Top 10 #1 singles is a re-release of a sixties hit? A mere technicality… We needed some Bowie, and this was his only chart-topper of the decade. I named it as best song in my 4th recap. An epic in every sense of the word.

‘Dancing Queen’, by ABBA – #1 for 6 weeks between August and October 1976

Friday night and the lights are low… Frida and Agnetha are looking out for a place to go. You know the rest. Everyone on planet earth knows the rest. The ultimate pop song? The famous glissando intro is instantly recognisable, and is referenced in ABBA’s comeback hit ‘Don’t Shut Me Down’. But. I only named it as runner-up in my 5th recap, because, well, Donna Summer went and did this:

‘I Feel Love’, by Donna Summer – #1 for 4 weeks in July/August 1977

The future arrived in the summer of ’77, beamed in on a spaceship piloted by one Donna Summer, with Giorgio Moroder as engineer. I rated it above ‘Dancing Queen’ precisely because it isn’t the ultimate pop song – it’s harsh, uncompromising and aggressively modern. You have to be in the mood for ‘I Feel Love’, which is why it hasn’t been overplayed to death, but when you are in the mood then woah. And it still sounds aggressively modern almost forty-five years on.

‘Heart of Glass’, by Blondie – #1 for 4 weeks in January/February 1979

Winner in my final ’70s recap, just two days ago. Blondie brought us a new-wave classic: a little disco, a little punk, a little classic rock, but beholden to none of what went before. Debbie Harry gave an impossibly cool lesson in how to be a rock ‘n’ roll frontwoman, too. 1979 – probably the best year of the decade in terms of chart-topping quality – was a-go go go. I know I love the glam years, but line these last three songs up – ABBA, Donna Summer and Blondie – and a better 10 minutes of popular music you’ll struggle to find.

So, there ends the 1970s. Next up, I’ll be cracking on with the eighties…


Top 10s – T. Rex

You can’t say you didn’t see it coming…


I do love T. Rex, and having their 4 number one’s crop up in my countdown has cemented how brilliant they were, how fun it must have been to be around for Marc Bolan’s short-lived explosion into the biggest pop supernova on the planet.

But two of those #1s don’t even make my Top 10… Yes, this is my Top 10 and mine alone, picked for personal preference just as much as musical brilliance.

First up the rules. Well, the ‘rule’, singular… To qualify for my Top 10, the song has to have been released and to have charted on the UK singles chart. No album tracks, or ‘B’-sides, no ‘Mambo Sun’, or ‘Thunderwing’.  Enjoy…

10. ‘One Inch Rock’, reached #28 in 1968 (and #7 on re-release in 1972)

I am well aware that this is not Marc Bolan’s and T. Rex’s tenth-best song, but on a personal level this takes me back to being a kid and singing along in the backseat. Somehow it had ended up on a cheapo ‘Best of the 60s’ cassette. My brother and I found the line ‘I’m kinda hard cos I’m one inch tall’ hilarious… Except it’s ‘I got the horrors cos I’m one inch tall’, and it’s not the only lyric you might struggle to make out.

Released when they were still ‘Tyrannosaurus Rex’ and more of a folk-duo, with Bolan joined by the brilliantly named Steve Peregrin Took, it sets the tone for much of T. Rex’s lyrical output while sounding unlike anything they would release in their heyday. On the one hand it is a song about being one-inch tall; on the other it is about being under the influence of some very strong hallucinogenics.

9. ‘New York City’, reached #15 in 1975

Did you ever see a woman, Coming out of New York City, With a frog in her hand…? Why no, Marc, can’t say I ever did. (Though apparently this one was genuinely inspired by Bolan seeing a woman, in New York, walking down the street while holding a frog…) While I wish I could have included more of T. Rex’s mid seventies singles, the truth is they just can’t compete with the ones further down this list. However, this one just about manages holds its own. That intro, sounding like a cartoon super-villain warming up his death-ray, twinned with a honky-tonk piano, is brilliant. Add the performance above, complete with a man in a giant-frog suit, and you have my 9th favourite T. Rex single.

8. ‘Children of the Revolution’, reached #2 in 1972

A grinding, almost menacing, riff that lumbers its way through a song that I want to love more than I do… I don’t know, I just think it lacks a little of their other hits’ joie de vivre. This one makes number 8, though, because it includes Bolan’s Bolanest lyric: I drive a Rolls-Royce, Cos it’s good for my voice… That, my friends, is rock ‘n’ roll, right there.

7. ‘Get It On’, reached #1 in 1971

A sexy riff for a sexy song about sex. Not much more needs written about one of their most-recognisable hits, but if you want to know more my original post is here. As much as I love it, I always think this song could have been chunkier… Know what I mean? Anyway, it gave them their biggest hit in the US, and you may recognise the keyboard player in the video above…

6. ‘Teenage Dream’, reached #13 in 1974

The epic, operatic, pinnacle of Marc Bolan’s genius… Or the sound of him disappearing up his own arse? Opinions are split, but I’d sway towards to the former. In amongst all the bizarre imagery, I think it’s Bolan’s lament towards the fame and adulation that was slipping away from him. He claimed ‘Teenage Dream’ as his finest lyric, and who am I to argue? The single version is already five minutes long, and the video above has an added minute of guitar trickery tagged on. Because, why not?

5. ‘Ride a White Swan’, reached #2 in 1971

The breakthrough hit for ‘T. Rex’ the glam rock icons. The lyrics still referenced the people of the Beltane and looking like a druid in the olde days… But the guitar was electric and funky and T. Rex was a-go. Years later, Bolan would perform this hit while literally riding a giant white swan. Which is brilliant…

4. ‘The Groover’, reached #4 in 1973

Dripping with attitude, and a punky, metal-ish riff, this was T. Rex’s last UK Top 10 hit. It starts off with the band’s name as a chant – T. R. E. Exxxxxx – with Marc going on to tell us just how brilliant he is. Some name me stud (yes they do…) We know he ain’t tame, and we call him the groover etc etc. Sing it to me children… It’s a middle finger to everyone who might claim that T. rex’s music was repetitive and reductive; in the form of yet another gloriously simple, repetitive T. Rex hit.

3. ‘Jeepster’, reached #2 in 1971

Fun fact: this was released against Bolan’s permission, as their final single on the Fly label. But let’s just be glad they did. Not for the first time, or the last, Marc is comparing his woman to a car. But also, he’s a car. A Jeepster for her love… Everyone’s a car! What is a simple enough, rockabilly number transforms towards the end when he announces that he is also a vampire for her love, and that he’s gonna suck ya! Oh my…

2. ‘Metal Guru’, reached #1 in 1972

T. Rex’s best #1 single – read my original post here – and a record that soars. ‘It is a festival of life song’, Marc said. ‘I believe in God, but have no religion.’ By the time this reached the top of the charts T. Rex were approaching God-like status themselves in the UK, and this was probably their pinnacle. The performance above is a bit ropey, but the brilliance of the song shines through. Why Noel Edmonds is dressed like Robin Hood, however, remains a mystery…

1. ’20th Century Boy’, reached #3 in 1973

‘One Inch Rock’, back at the start of this list, is my earliest memory of T. Rex, before I knew what they were. Hearing ’20th Century Boy’ as a nine or ten year-old was the moment I sat up and said ‘Hello, what is this?’ I don’t think its overstating things to say that the two crunching chords right at the start here is one of the most thrilling moments in rock music, ever… It’s heavier than a lot of T. Rex’s stuff – the guitar sounds more like a chainsaw – and the performance above is even heavier than the recorded version. It’s a brutal, stripping down of glam rock to its essence: power chords and slightly ambiguous lyrics… He wants to be a toy, to a boy, a boy-toy…?

Phew. That was fun. Up next, we launch head first into 1973!

313. ‘Metal Guru’, by T. Rex

I do love the fact that whenever a T. Rex #1 comes along, it usually whacks something terrible out of the top spot. ‘Get It On’ deposed ‘Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep’, ‘Telegram Sam’ ended The New Seekers’ attempts to teach the world to sing. Now this, T. Rex’s final (!) UK chart-topper ends five long weeks of bagpipes.


Metal Guru, by T. Rex (their 4th and final #1)

4 weeks, from 14th May – 11th June 1972

And while we wipe a tear at the thought of never hearing Bolan’s boys again in this countdown, are we consoled by the fact that perhaps they saved their best for last…? It’s a record that soars in from on high, one that starts right in the thick of the action: Woah-oah-oah-oah… Yeaaaaaaahhhh!!!

Everything you want from a T. Rex song is present and correct. Stomp and swagger? Check. An irresistible, bubblegum hook? Check. Nonsense lyrics? Check. Metal guru, Is it you… Sitting there in your armour plated chair, Oh yeah… There’s as much point in asking what a ‘Metal Guru’ is as there was in enquiring about a ‘Telegram Sam’. Apparently, it is Marc Bolan’s idea of a God, on his throne. All alone without a telephone, Aw yeah…

And, as usual, in amongst all the madness, there’s a gem or two. Who wouldn’t want to have a silver-studded, sabre-toothed dream? Bolan’s delivery is imperious: camp, floaty, playful. He’s at the height of his powers, and you can imagine this being played at the end of a concert, the final song in the second encore, as the tired and emotional crowd sing and sway along.


I called this their best #1, as it’s everything that makes T. Rex great, distilled and concentrated into the perfect two-point-five minute pop song. The sound is beefier than their earlier chart-toppers – just listen to the cascading drums, for example – as if glam rock were being mixed and produced by Phil Spector. (If the thought of a Glam-Rock Spector does nothing for you, then you are dead inside.) At the same time, ‘Metal Guru’ is so short and throwaway, so quick and effortless, that you could almost call it disposable. And yet – isn’t that the essence of glam? It’s not to be taken seriously; all sugar and little substance…

Has there been any other band that has had four consecutive number ones of such high quality. ‘Hot Love’, to ‘Get it On’, to ‘Telegram Sam’, to this. The Beatles, for sure, and maybe the Stones. Away from the very top of the charts, their run of ten hits from late 1970 to mid 1973 is superb. The likes of ‘Jeepster’, ‘20th Century Boy’, and ‘Children of the Revolution’ – all of which charted no lower than #4. They were the biggest band in the land, by far, and Bolan was the rock ‘n’ roll idol of his day – a position which he was born to fill.

I’ll do a T. Rex Top 10 soon, so will go easy on the bio for now. Suffice to say, the glory days didn’t go on much longer – glam rock wasn’t built to last – and Bolan started taking lots of drugs and rubbing people up the wrong way. Not that he lost the ability to write brilliant pop songs – some of the smaller hits from 1975-77 are great – but he certainly fell from his pedestal. He was just starting to get it together, working with up and coming punk acts and fronting his own TV series, when the car he was travelling in with his girlfriend Gloria Jones slammed into a tree in South London. He died instantly, aged just twenty-nine. And who knows – perhaps he went on up to meet the big Metal Guru in the sky…?

Follow my playlist below for all the #1s so far:

309. ‘Telegram Sam’, by T. Rex

Oh yes. Thrusting The New Seekers out of the way, thank God, with one flick of his corkscrew hair… Marc Bolan, ladies and gentlemen.


Telegram Sam, by T. Rex (their 3rd of four #1s)

2 weeks, from 30th January – 13th February 1972

With a chunky, crunchy riff that is part-electric guitar and part-sax, and some wonderful nonsense lyrics, T. Rex score their 3rd chart-topper in well under a year. This is a single that swaggers in to the room oozing arrogance and attitude – a band at the peak of their powers and popularity ever so slightly phoning it in. (OK, ‘Telegramming’ it in.)

Telegram Sam, Telegram Sam, You-ooh, Are my main man… The song is a list of characters, introduced one after the other. Golden Nose Slim, Golden Nose Slim, I-I-I, Knows where you’ve been… Who are these people? Are they people? Are they a band? Are they cocaine-fuelled imaginings? Who knows, who cares, when you can join Purple-Pie Pete, whose lips are like lightning making girls melt in the heat…

I did read that the line Bobby’s alright, Bobby’s alright, He’s a natural born poet, He’s just outta sight… is a reference to Bob Dylan, while the other references are people close to Bolan. His ‘main man’ was his manager, for example. And then there’s ‘Jungle-face Jake’, about whom one must make no mistake… That would be his managers assistant. Who was black. Yeah… Not the kind of lyric you would get away with writing these days. Moving swiftly on…


Because this is a song written by Marc Bolan, there is of course a verse dedicated solely to himself. And isn’t the line: Me I funk, But I don’t care, I ain’t no square with my corkscrew hair… just perfect? There’s always a gem in amongst the nonsense with T. Rex. For the mini solo we get the same electric violin from Slade’s ‘Coz I Luv You’, and there’s lots of squealing and breathing from Bolan throughout.

Maybe it’s because it’s coming hot on the heels of Benny Hill and bloody ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing’, but this record sounds super-thrilling and fresh – a blast from the future. Of all the bands that have ever existed, T. Rex are the one that I wish I’d been around for in real time. Of course it would have been great to have been a teenager at the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, or to have been around to hear ‘She Loves You’ for the first time in 1963, but I know that if I had been a fourteen-year-old in 1972, then I would have been sending my parents into a tizzy with my love of mascaraed Marc and his boys.

But I have to admit that, of T. Rex’s four number ones, ‘Telegram Sam’ is my least favourite. It’s a solid eight out of ten – that’s how good a band they were – but it doesn’t quite hit the heights of their other chart-toppers. Like I said at the start, it sounds like it’s been written to order. Still, as Marc Bolan can be heard breathing orgasmically just before the chorus: Sounds like the good stuff… Yes Marc, it certainly does.

302. ‘Get It On’, by T. Rex

Aw yeah! T. Rex score their second number in less than three months. There are riffs, and there are riffs. This, baby, is a riff.


Get It On, by T. Rex (their 2nd of four #1s)

4 weeks, from 18th July – 15th August 1971

It’s a riff that growls and purrs, like a cat ready to pounce on its prey. Like a sports car purring at the start line, fuzzy and scuzzy. Then someone’s fingers slide down a set of piano keys – a glissando, if you want to be technical about it – and we’re off. Head first into the glam rock era.

Well you’re dirty sweet, Clad in black, Don’t look back, And I love you… Bolan’s in love with a vamp. You’re slim and you’re weak, With the teeth of a hydra upon you… She sounds like quite the woman. Get it on, Bang a gong, Get it on! Just what might he be singing about?

Sex. The answer is sex. Very few chart-toppers so far have been quite so up-front about the that fact they’re concerned with shagging, and nothing else. The only one that springs to mind, from a couple of years earlier, was ‘Je T’Aime’, and that was more funny than sexy. ‘Get It On’, though… Well, it’s all in the title. They might as well have called it ‘Let’s Fuck.’

Most of the time you’re not quite sure what Marc Bolan’s singing, and most of the time it simply does not matter. This is a record that sounds brilliant, that sounds like an idea come to life, and the lyrics are merely there to make up the runtime. And having looked them up, I’m not sure Bolan put more than two seconds thought into them: Well you’re an untamed youth, That’s the truth with your cloak full of eagles… and You’ve got the blues in your shoes and your stockings…. Dumb, and yet perfect. You just know that a girl with the blues in her shoes and stocking is going to be a handful.

There’s one line that’s always stood out to me – and I’ve loved this song a long time – and that’s: You’re built like a car, You got a hubcap diamond star halo… I have never met a woman who would take ‘You’re built like a car’ as a compliment. But, to be fair, if that line was going to work for anyone, it would be Marc Bolan.


Even when he’s not singing, the brazen, filthy horns keep up the raunchy atmosphere. Then towards the end he simply starts breathing, and hiccupping, and it still sounds X-rated. The moment, before the final chorus, when he breathes in then out, with a little tremor, is the probably the sexiest moment in a #1 single so far, bar none. Bear in mind, T. Rex’s audience were teenagers. T. Rexstasy was here and, for the briefest of moments, they were the biggest band since The Beatles.

Then he shouts Take me! as he gives himself over completely to this woman, and we slide to a finish that includes a snippet of Chuck Berry: Meanwhile, I’m still thinking… A line from ‘Little Queenie’, the song that inspired ‘Get It On’. And while the similarity is not immediate, if you listen to it, buried beneath the vocals and the trademark Berry licks, the riff is there. Bolan brought it out and set it centre stage.

Such is the power of this riff that in the 1990s, Prince and Oasis took it in completely different directions and still made two superb singles. Prince dialled the smut up even further for ‘Cream’, changing ‘dirty sweet’ to ‘filthy cute’, while Noel Gallagher did what he does best on ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’: shamelessly plundering, turning the guitars up to five-hundred, and making his band the biggest in the land. Shove those two song into a playlist, alongside ‘Little Queenie’ and ‘Get It On’, and you’re got yourself a brilliant fifteen minutes.

As for T. Rex, if ‘Hot Love’ was the start, then this was the push that sent them flying. They would dominate the British charts for the next two years, and we’ll be meeting them twice yet. ‘Get It On’ was also the band’s only US hit, reaching the giddy heights of #12. Like, seriously, America…?

Follow the #1s blog playlist here.

298. ‘Hot Love’, by T. Rex

T-Rextasy has arrived at the top of the charts. Over the next year and a bit one band, led by one tiny little sparkling pixie, will dominate the top of the UK singles charts, and bring with it the defining sound of the early seventies. Wham bam, yes it’s glam!


Hot Love, by T. Rex (their 1st of four #1s)

6 weeks, from 14th March – 25th April 1971

But the intro to ‘Hot Love’ is actually quite gentle, quite lilting. A boogie-woogie bassline and some light strings. It’s still an intro that makes you sit up, that sounds unlike anything that’s topped the charts before – one of those leaps forward that come along every so often – it’s just not instantly ‘T. Rex’. Well she’s my woman of gold, And she’s not very old, Uh-huh-huh…

Tyrannosaurus Rex had spent the tail end of the sixties recording psychedelic folk-rock with mystical themes (sample title: ‘By the Light of a Magical Moon’). As the seventies came around they dropped the ‘yrannosaurus’ and plugged their guitars in. But here, Marc Bolan is still singing like a hippy: Well she’s faster than most, And she lives on the coast, Uh-huh-huh… Note the Elvis stutter, though. You can be sure it’s deliberate. Bolan wasn’t afraid of comparing himself to the greats.

One of the complaints most often directed at Marc Bolan is that his lyrics are nonsense. But to say that is to miss the point completely. Firstly, any man who can produce lyrics like ‘I drive a Rolls-Royce, Cos it’s good for my voice’ is a stone-cold genius. But secondly, glam rock, essentially, isn’t about the lyrics. The lyrics are just something to hang all the sequins and hair-sprayed wigs on. At the same time, if you listen again, and squint a little, you can squeeze meaning out of them: Well she ain’t no witch, And I love the ways she twitches, Uh-huh… I’m a labourer of love, In my Persian gloves, Uh-huh-huh…

These lines paint him as a gigolo, a dandy, a Byronic figure marauding the countryside giving the ladies hot love all night long. And then, 1:15 in, glam rock truly arrives. The lead guitar kicks, Bolan screeches, twice, like a vampire going straight for a virgin’s neck, before letting out a lascivious, drawn-out moan…. Uuuuuuh…


The last three minutes of this five-minute long record is a coda, a prolonged fade-out. La-la-la-lalalala… La-la-la-lalalala… Bored with aping Elvis, Bolan now thinks he’s The Beatles. The man was never short on confidence… The band as a whole were a force of nature – their drummer (this was the first T. Rex song to feature a drum-kit) had the stage name ‘Legend’, given to him by Marc, of course.

La-la-la-lalalala… it goes, on and on, with big drums, stomping and clapping, growing progressively more raucous, until a huge wig-out right at the end. Bolan mutters, then grunts, then moans. If this was it, then it would still be quite the legacy at the top of the charts. But there’s more to come. Much more. They had hit #2 a few months before with ‘Ride a White Swan’, and were embarking on a run of ten singles, none of which would chart lower than #4.

After this glowing write-up, though, I do have to admit that ‘Hot Love’ isn’t my favourite T. Rex song. (It isn’t even my favourite T. Rex number one.) But it is the perfect introduction to the band: catchy, silly, fun, and sexy.

Find my Spotify playlist here.